SPRING EGG DROP SOUP I hate muddling through a long winter only to suffer those odd early spring months when the weather is finally warming up, but the markets don’t seem to have noticed. Spring produce takes a while to shake off the cold. So when it does, an excitable cook like me tends to go overboard. I pop to the market to grab a bunch of asparagus and return weighed down by bags and bags of spring goodies. I want to use them all without cooking a dozen different dishes. So I make a nice soup, one flaunting a last- minute drizzle of eggs beaten with a little Parmesan so they set in silky, fatty strands. A variety of veg is fantastic here, but feel free to use just asparagus or just peas, if that’s what you’ve got or what you like.
Heat the oil in a wide heavy pot over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the carrots first, then the onion, garlic, and 2 teaspoons of the salt. Cover and cook, stirring only after 5 minutes have passed and occasionally thereafter, until the onions are soft and creamy but not coloured, about 25 minutes. Uncover, add all but 1 tablespoon of the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and bring the stock to a vigorous simmer. Add the asparagus and both kinds of peas and cook just until they’re tender with a slight crunch, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the Parmesan, a pinch of salt, and the remaining tablespoon of stock. When the green vegetables are ready, reduce the heat to low, stir in the herbs, then drizzle the egg mixture here and there over the soup. Have one very gentle stir, wait a minute or two until the egg sets, then take the pot off the heat. Season to taste with salt (be judicious, or else you will obscure the flavour of the vegetables), then squeeze in just enough lemon to add brightness, not acidity. Let the soup cool slightly before you dig in.
serves 4 55ml extra-v irgin olive oil 225g young carrots, topped, tailed, peeled and cut into 1-cm irregularly shaped pieces 230g chopped (1-cm pieces) bulbous spring onions 3 slim or 1 bulbous spring garlic head(s), roots and tops trimmed, tough layers removed, thinly sliced 2 teaspoons plus a pinch Maldon or another flaky sea salt 900ml Simple Chicken Stock (page 245) 225g asparagus, woody bottoms snapped off, cut on the diagonal into 1-cm pieces 110g sugar snap peas, trimmed, strings removed, and cut on the diagonal into 0.5-cm pieces 100g shelled fresh peas (from about 300g of pods) 2 large eggs 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese A five-finger pinch of mint leaves, roughly chopped at the last minute A five-finger pinch of basil leaves, roughly chopped at the last minute ½ lemon